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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering


Research Staff

GC    Guangjun Cheng - Research Scientist | Pasquali Research Group

Dr. Guangjun Cheng earned his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of California, Davis in 2003. His Ph.D. work involved the synthesis and characterization of transition metal nanoparticles and their application in catalysis. He now works as a Research Scientist in Dr. Plasquali’s group at Rice University and is assigned to work in the Physical Measurement Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD.  He previously worked on the colloidal magnetic nanoparticles and extended his research interests to graphene, Raman spectroscopy, and imaging.  His current research focuses on the metal/ graphene interface and the chemically modified graphene.

JC   James M. Clomburg Research Scientist Gonzalez Research Group    
Dr. James M. Clomburg graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in 2006, and then obtained a PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Rice University in 2012 under the supervision of Professor Ramon Gonzalez. For his PhD Thesis, he focused on the understanding of fermentative glycerol metabolism in microorganisms and applied this knowledge for the production of fuels and reduced chemicals from glycerol. His postdoctoral research under Professor Gonzalez is focused on the reconstruction and quantitative characterization of a functional reversal of the b-oxidation cycle for the production of advanced fuels and chemicals.

Rocio Doherty   Rocio Doherty - Research Scientist Vargas Research Group
Rocio Doherty is originally from Mexico where she was an Assistant Professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at the Monterrey Tech for 12 years. In 2006, she moved to Tampa, Fl where she worked in CEMEX and American Water Chemicals as R&D Chemist. She also worked at Link-Systems Inc, a company dedicated to develop online educational material for different universities. Dr. Doherty research experience includes the synthesis and characterization of polymers for chemical encapsulation, and the formulation and testing of additives for a number of chemical products and materials. She has been responsible for the development of laboratory techniques for quality control, certification and field diagnostics and for the coordination of research activities of multidisciplinary groups. Dr. Doherty holds a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry and a M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Monterrey Tech, in Mexico.

kh Kimberly Heck - Research Scientist Wong Research Group

Dr. Kimberly Heck received her B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Houston in 2004 and her Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Rice University in 2009. After working as a postdoctoral research associate in the chemistry department at Texas A&M University, she returned to Rice University where she has worked as a lecturer and research scientist. Her previous research includes developing catalysts for the aqueous-phase degradation of chlorinated organic contaminants in groundwater, spectroscopic identification of reaction intermediates on model catalysts via surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy, and the development of Au-based materials for hydrogen sensing. She currently is a research scientist/lab manager in Prof. Michael Wong’s research group where she is developing catalytic systems for the oxidative degradation of dioxane in groundwater. 
Francesca Mirri  
Francesca Mirri - Research Scientist Pasquali Research Group

Dr. Francesca Mirri received her bachelor degree in chemical engineering from University of Bologna in 2009. She joined the PhD program in Rice University under the supervision of Prof. Pasquali in 2010 and earned her PhD in December 2015. Her PhD research focused on the fabrication of carbon nanotube films from solutions of carbon nanotubes in chlorosulfonic acid by dip coating for applications like transparent electrodes and EMI shields for data cables. She also studied the morphology of carbon nanotube solutions by small angle neutron scattering. She is now research scientist in the laboratory of Prof Pasquali focusing on developing wearable electronics devices made with carbon nanotube fibers as well as continuing the work on neutron scattering characterization of carbon nanotube solutions.


 MP Maura Puerto - Research Scientist | Thermodynamics and Transport Properties Lab | Interfacial Phenomena Lab | Hirasaki Research Group   

Dr. Maura Puerto spent 25 years with Exxon Mobil before retiring and joining Rice as a Research Scientist. As an expert in application of surfactants to processes involving flow through porous media, she is active in several projects in the Hirasaki and Miller labs. Her research includes enhanced oil recovery and aquifer remediation. She has received awards and accolades including the SPE Cedric K. Ferguson Award and an Exxon Chemicals Quality award. She received her chemical engineering degree from Oriente University in Cuba.
 Singer Philip M. Singer – Temporary Research Scientist | NMR Laboratory | Hirasaki Research Group
Dr. Philip M. Singer spent 10 years with Schlumberger as research scientist in oil and energy before joining the Hirasaki Research Group. His main area of interest is NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) core and fluid analysis, for both conventional and unconventional resources. He received his PhD in experimental condensed matter physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship for post-doctoral studies at the University of Paris-Sud. In his spare time he enjoys swimming and piano. 

Postdoctoral Research Associates

CAO Ciceron Ayala-Orozco |  Wong Research Group
PhD: Chemistry, Rice University, 2015
Thesis: “Theranostic Gold Nanoshells and Nanomatryoshkas for Cancer Therapy”

Dr. Ayala received his PhD in Chemistry from Rice University under the supervision of Professor Naomi J. Halas. His PhD work focuses on the chemical synthesis of metallic multilayered nanoparticles with plasmonic optical properties tailored to applications in photonics, fluorescence enhancement, photothermal cancer therapy, and ultrasensitive probes for cancer detection. His current research at the Wong’s group focuses on the development of nanocatalysts for hydrocarbon upgrading.

Shivani Garg Shivani Garg | Gonzalez Research Group
PhD: Biochemistry, Iowa State University

I obtained my PhD in Biochemistry from Iowa State University, and worked as a post-doctoral research associate at Iowa State before joining Dr. Ramon Gonzalez's group at Rice University. During my PhD, I developed novel biocatalysts for production of bio-based chemicals that can serve as sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals. Specifically, my research focused on understanding the basis of diverse substrate specificity of Ketoacyl-ACP Synthase III enzymes, and exploiting that diversity to generate novel bio-based chemicals. In Gonzalez lab, my research is focused on conversion of methane to useful chemicals and fuels.

AH  Anulekha K. Harida |Biswal Research Group
PhD: Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad (IITH), India
Thesis: Electrospun Nanostructured Metal Oxides based Electrode Materials for High Performance Lithium Ion Batteries

Dr. Anulekha K. Haridas received her Bachelors in Polymer Engineering (2007) from Mahatma Gandhi University college of Engineering, Kerala, India. She earned her Masters in Nanosciences from Amrita Center for Nanosciences, Cochin in 2010 and then Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad (IITH) in 2015. She carried out her doctoral research work at International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad under the guidance of Dr. Tata Narasinga Rao (ARCI) and Dr. Chandra Shekhar Sharma (IITH). Her Ph.D thesis was focused on the fabrication and characterization of nanostructured Li-ion battery electrode materials by electrospinning technique and its electrochemical performance evaluation in half & full Li-ion cell modes. Anulekha’s current research work under Professor Biswal focuses on the development of Li-ion NMC based cathode materials for use in high performance electric vehicles.

PH Peng He | Biswal Research Group
PhD: Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University, 2011
Thesis: “Microfluidic Emulsification"

Dr. Peng He graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China with a Bachelor Degree in 2005, and then obtained a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M University in 2011 under the supervision of Professor Zhengdong Cheng. For his PhD Thesis, he focused on the emulsification process in various microfluidic designs, to understand the dynamics of droplet formation using experimental and numerical tools, and applied this knowledge for the fabrication of disk-like anisotropic colloidal particles. After PhD graduation, he joined the Earth and Environmental Science Division in Los Alamos National Laboratory as a postdoctoral researcher for two years, where he dedicated to apply microfluidic techniques for energy studies such as the microalgae biofuel production and the multiphase flow in porous media. Currently Dr. He is conducting his postdoctoral research under Professor Biswal at Rice, focusing on the understanding and solution of asphaltene deposition problem in the oil and gas production, using a novel high-pressure microfluidic platform.

John Leavitt John Leavitt | Gonzalez Research Group
PhD: Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, 2016
Thesis: “Engineering and Evolution of Saccharomyces cerevisiae for Muconic Acid Production” Dr. Leavitt received his PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Texas at Austin under the supervision of Professor Hal Alper in the Chemical Engineering Department. His PhD work focused on developing yeast as a host for the production of the platform chemical muconic acid as a renewable source of plastic. Building on his expertise using biological platforms for the synthesis of value added products, his current research in the Metabolic Engineering and Biomanufacturing Laboratory directed by Ramon Gonzalez focuses on developing novel pathways for the synthesis of organic compounds with various applications. This includes engineering microbial hosts for the production of complex compounds with pharmaceutical and medicinal properties.

Daniel Marincel Daniel Marincel |  Pasquali Research Group
PhD: Materials Science and Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, 2014
Thesis: The Influence of Crystal Defects on Domain Wall Motion in Thin Film Pb(Zr,Ti)O­3Dr. Marincel received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University in December, 2014. His dissertation research focused on characterizing the influence defects have on the piezoelectric properties of thin film ferroelectric materials. His current research with Prof. Pasquali’s group involves purification, fabrication, and characterization of boron nitride nanotube macroarticles for high temperature applications, along with incorporation of carbon nanotube fibers in novel devices.

Debjani Roy  
Debjani Roy | Pasquali Research Group
PhD: Chemical Physics, University of Maryland College Park, 2010
Thesis: "Interfacial Solvation and Excited State Photophysical Properties of 7-Aminocoumarins at Silica/Liquid Interfaces” Debjani Roy received her PhD in Chemical Physics from the University of Maryland, College Park. She has held previous positions as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Hood College, Fredrick, MD, and as a Postdoctoral Fellowat the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher working at the at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where her research is focused on Crystallization of Polymer nanocomposites using Rheo-Raman microscopy.

Shuai Qian Shuai Qian | Gonzalez Research Group
PhD: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Houston, 2016
Thesis: “Design and Application of Regulatory Protein-Based Biosensors for Biocatalyst Screening in Recombinant Escherichia coli" Dr. Qian Received his PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Houston under the supervision of Prof. Patrick C. Cirino in August 2016. His dissertation research focused on developing metabolite-responsive biosensors through engineering a transcription factor in E. coli, and applying the customized biosensors to engineer recombinant E. coli for improved target molecules production. His current research with Prof. Gonzalez’s group focuses on developing novel pathway for biosynthesizing bioactive molecules.

SP Anand Rahalkar |  Pasquali Research Group
PhD: Polymer Science and Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2016
Thesis: “Diffusion of Polymers in Polyeletrolyte Gels" Anand Rahalkar received his PhD from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he studied dynamics of polymers inside polyelectrolyte gels. As a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, his research focuses on characterization of the dynamics of triblock polyelectrolyte gels with tunable electrostatic interaction. This work aims to develop nanometer scale to mesoscale structure and dynamics correlations to test available multi-scale simulation and computational methods.

Zaigao Tan Zaigao Tan | Gonzalez Research Group
PhD: Microbiology, Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2014
Thesis: “Construction and optimization of Escherichia coli cell factories for succinate production" Dr. Zaigao Tan obtained his PhD degree from the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (TIB-CAS) at 2014. His PhD research focused on construction and optimization of Escherichia coli cell factories for succinate production under the supervision of Prof. Xueli Zhang. Then, he worked as a postdoc fellow at Iowa State University from 2014 to 2016 in Prof. Laura Jarboe’ and Jacqueline Shanks’s lab. During this period, his research project is membrane engineering of E. coli to increase robustness and production of biorenewables. Now, he is the postdoc associate in Prof. Ramon Gonzalez’s group at Rice University. Currently, his research focuses on exploring novel enzymes or pathways for synthesis of molecules which can be used in the chemical, fuel and pharmaceutical fields.

owl Qing Wang |  Biswal Research Group
PhD: Chemical Engineering, Tulane University, 2013
Thesis: "Double-Encapsulation System for Dermal Vaccine Delivery" Dr. Qing Wang received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Tulane University in 2013 under the supervision of Professor Kyriakos Papadopoulos. Her research was focused on the development of emulsion-based formulations for active substance delivery. After completing her Ph.D. study, she joined Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering at University of Texas at Austin as a postdoctoral fellow for two years, and worked with Professors Steven Bryant and Chun Huh to develop functionalized magnetic nanoparticles and implement the magnetic nanoparticles for produced water treatment. Her current work at Professor Biswal’s lab is to study functionalized magnetic nanoparticles for enhanced oil recovery.